Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Anders Wallgren, AppDynamics Blog, Elizabeth White, Sanjay Zalavadia, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

The OSS Development Life Cycle

Part 4 of 4

This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Understanding Open Source Software Development by Joseph Feller and Brian Fitzgerald, published by Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0201734966. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. (c) 2002 Addison-Wesley

The traditional software development life cycle (SDLC) is premised on a set of stages, which, in their most generic form, include:

  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Implementation
However, the OSS development life cycle is quite different. First, the planning, analysis, and design phases are largely conducted by the initial project founder, and are not part of the general OSS development life cycle. Getting design issues right is perhaps even more critical in OSS than in conventional development. Certain criteria in relation to modularity of the code are critical. For example, modules must be loosely coupled, thereby allowing distributed development in the first place. Less important, but still highly desirable for achieving an efficient development model, is that modules be highly cohesive and address a single well-defined purpose. However, design decisions are generally made in advance, before the larger pool of developers start to contribute, and are generally based on well-established design patterns. This allows developers to collaborate without having to undergo the detailed requirements analysis or design phases of the traditional life cycle. In the absence of conventional project management, the importance of "having a tail-light to follow" (Bezroukov, 1999b) is a very useful coordinating principle, as it allows a multitude of developers to contribute. This also helps to explain why many OSS products are horizontal infrastructure-type products, as these are ones in which the requirements are pretty well understood. In vertical domains, developer knowledge of the application domain has been found to be critical, but it is unlikely that the pool of potential developers would be as high in such domains.

Thus, the OSS development life cycle is located primarily within the implementation phase of the traditional SDLC. Several researchers have investigated the life cycle underpinning OSS. Bollinger et al. (1999) suggest that it follows a very intensive spiral model (Boehm, 1988), albeit without any real risk assessment. Mockus et al. (2000) have derived a life cycle for OSS from their study of the Apache Project, and Jorgensen (2001) has investigated the life cycle in the FreeBSD Project. Both have come up with models that are largely compatible, but Jorgensen's is more detailed. He identifies the following main phases in the OSS development life cycle:

Code

  • Review
  • Pre-commit test
  • Development release
  • Parallel debugging
  • Production release

    Code
    This is the sine qua non activity. However, many potential OSS contributors may fear taking the initial step of submitting their code for review by the supremely talented OSS "code-gods" (Asklund and Bendix, 2001; Bergquist and Ljungberg, 2001), a fear that is quite warranted when you consider the views of a FreeBSD developer reported by Jorgensen (2001):

    The way you get commit privileges is by first making enough code contributions&This implies the code you've been submitting is of sufficiently impressive quality that no one objects and says, "Yuck, no, don't give him commit privileges. He writes ugly code."

    Thus, the knowledge that talented and respected peers will be reviewing the code is a real incentive to improve the quality of the code being submitted in the first place.

    Review
    As already mentioned, truly independent peer review is one of the central strengths of the OSS process. However, Jorgensen found that eliciting feedback was not always easy. "Heavyweights" with a proven reputation will get a lot of feedback, but it can be quite difficult to get attention as a newbie - another classic "Catch-22" situation. Also, somewhat paradoxically, the simpler the code, the more feedback you gets. However, complex code would invariably benefit more from feedback. Also, it's more difficult to get feedback on design issues.

    Precommit Test
    Given the vulnerability of the OSS development model, it's critical that committers test each contribution carefully to avoid breaking the build, another common norm in the OSS community. Since there is no convenient help-line or telephone support for those installing the eventual product, it can be an adventure completing an actual OSS product installation. Sanders (1998) quotes the "tech-savvy" Ellen Ullman's description of her installation of Linux as "an exhilarating succession of problem-solving challenges." Given this problematic installation context, it is imperative that installation proceeds as smoothly as possible without unnecessary noise, and thus rogue modules that could jeopardize this must be prevented.

    Interestingly, testing is very much a personal process. There is no requirement that test scenarios be rigorously planned and written down in advance. However, the negative implications of allowing a faulty contribution through are such that the testing process is taken very seriously indeed. As mentioned earlier, the delegation of testing to the user community - or partial delegation, as is the case with Mozilla and GNOME - is one of the strengths of OSS (Schmidt and Porter, 2001).

    Development Release
    If the committer deems the module ready, it can be incorporated in the development release. This is the key payoff for many developers as they get the reward of seeing their code implemented quickly in the product. Jorgensen (2001) cites a developer who captures it quite graphically:

    There is a tremendous satisfaction to the "see bug, fix bug, see bug fix get incorporated so that the fix helps others" cycle.

    Parallel Debugging
    The advantages of global parallel debugging were discussed above. Again, as in testing, there is typically no formal plan for debugging. Rather the numbers of potential debuggers is where the power of the debugging arises - Linus's Law. If bugs are found, they can be fixed and resubmitted as per the life cycle described above, or problem reports may be created and submitted. This can also be a way of initiating your contributions to OSS. For example, the database of outstanding problem reports could be examined, and if there are some outstanding that catch your interest or are within your capability, then these can be worked on. Thus, can you begin a career in OSS.

    Production Release
    Contributions eventually become part of the production release. They are merged into the stable production branch. This is accomplished in different ways in different projects. FreeBSD maintains stable production and current development branches, and contributions that are eventually found suitable are merged into the latest stable production branch, and, in the case of a bug fix, to any previous production branches to which it might be relevant. Linux maintains its stable production and development versions in different directories, and uses release numbers to identify production (even numbers) and development (odd numbers) versions.

    Conclusion
    We have argued that the generic OSS development process is characterized by the practice of parallel, rather than linear, collaboration among developers, which leads to increases in both speed and quality; by the participation of large, globally distributed communities of developers who participate in a truly independent peer review process; by prompt feedback (e.g., bug reports) and prompt recognition (e.g., integration of bug fixes); by the participation of talented and motivated developers and extremely active users; and by rapid, incremental release schedules. We also examined the well-stocked toolkit of OSS, including configuration management tools like CVS, as well as editors, build tools, documentation extractors, and the like. Finally, we argued that the OSS process is governed by an elaborate system of taboos and social mores that take the place of formal project management, and that the OSS process follows a distinctly different development life cycle to traditional proprietary software.

  • More Stories By Joseph Feller

    Joseph Feller is a lecturer with the Business Information Systems Group,
    University College Cork, Ireland. His research on Open Source Software is
    published in several prominent conference proceedings and he is the author
    of Customer Friendly: Design Guidelines for eCommerce. He also edits the
    monthly professional journal, Inside XML Solutions.

    More Stories By Brian Fitzgerald

    Brian Fitzgerald is the Frederick A Krehbiel II Professor of Innovation in Global Business and Technology at the University of Limerick, Ireland. He is Associate Editor for two leading international journals in the IS field, The Information Systems Journal, and Data Base. His publications include five books and more than 50 papers, published in leading international conferences and journals. Having worked in the industry prior to taking up an academic position, he has more than 20 years of experience in the IS field.

    Comments (0)

    Share your thoughts on this story.

    Add your comment
    You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

    In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


    @ThingsExpo Stories
    Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
    There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
    With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
    Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
    As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
    The Quantified Economy represents the total global addressable market (TAM) for IoT that, according to a recent IDC report, will grow to an unprecedented $1.3 trillion by 2019. With this the third wave of the Internet-global proliferation of connected devices, appliances and sensors is poised to take off in 2016. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David McLauchlan, CEO and co-founder of Buddy Platform, will discuss how the ability to access and analyze the massive volume of streaming data from mil...
    WebSocket is effectively a persistent and fat pipe that is compatible with a standard web infrastructure; a "TCP for the Web." If you think of WebSocket in this light, there are other more hugely interesting applications of WebSocket than just simply sending data to a browser. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Frank Greco, Director of Technology for Kaazing Corporation, will compare other modern web connectivity methods such as HTTP/2, HTTP Streaming, Server-Sent Events and new W3C event APIs ...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
    Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
    Silver Spring Networks, Inc. (NYSE: SSNI) extended its Internet of Things technology platform with performance enhancements to Gen5 – its fifth generation critical infrastructure networking platform. Already delivering nearly 23 million devices on five continents as one of the leading networking providers in the market, Silver Spring announced it is doubling the maximum speed of its Gen5 network to up to 2.4 Mbps, increasing computational performance by 10x, supporting simultaneous mesh communic...
    The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
    With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
    Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
    One of the bewildering things about DevOps is integrating the massive toolchain including the dozens of new tools that seem to crop up every year. Part of DevOps is Continuous Delivery and having a complex toolchain can add additional integration and setup to your developer environment. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Miko Matsumura, Chief Marketing Officer of Gradle Inc., will discuss which tools to use in a developer stack, how to provision the toolchain to minimize onboa...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...